|Publication number||US7966793 B2|
|Application number||US 11/151,670|
|Publication date||Jun 28, 2011|
|Filing date||Jun 13, 2005|
|Priority date||Jun 15, 2004|
|Also published as||CA2571162A1, CA2571162C, US8281556, US20050247026, US20110209331, US20130000249, WO2006001991A1|
|Publication number||11151670, 151670, US 7966793 B2, US 7966793B2, US-B2-7966793, US7966793 B2, US7966793B2|
|Inventors||Samuel D. Griggs, Dennis J. May, David T. Wince, William M. Poteat, Derek L. Brown|
|Original Assignee||Tipper Tie, Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (96), Non-Patent Citations (21), Referenced by (1), Classifications (16), Legal Events (5)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application claims the benefit of priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/579,821, filed Jun. 15, 2004, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference as if recited in full herein.
The present invention relates to apparatus that can package and apply closure clips to materials that enclose products therein, and may be particularly suitable for clipping netting material.
Certain types of commodity and/or industrial items can be packaged by placing the desired product(s) in a covering material and then applying a closure clip or clips to end portions of the covering material to secure the product(s) therein. For non-flowable piece goods, the piece goods can be held individually in a respective clipped package, or as a group of goods in a single package. The covering material can be any suitable material, typically a casing and/or netting material.
Generally described, when packaging a piece good product in netting, the product is manually pushed through a netting chute. The product can include, by way of example, a non-flowable semi-solid and/or solid object such as a meat product including whole or half hams, turkey, chicken, and the like. The netting chute holds a length of a netting sleeve over the exterior thereof. A first downstream end portion of the netting is typically closed using a first clip. As the product exits the netting chute, it is covered with the netting. An operator can then orient the product inside the netting between the discharge end of the chute and the clipped first end portion of the netting. The operator can then pull the netting so that the netting is held relatively tight (typically stretched or in tension) over the product. The operator then uses his/her hands to compress or gather the open end of the netting (upstream of the product) and manually applies a clip to the netting, typically using a Tipper Tie® double clipper apparatus. A clip attachment apparatus or “clippers” are well known to those of skill in the art and include those available from Tipper Tie, Inc., of Apex, N.C., including product numbers Z3214, Z3202, and Z3200. Examples of clip attachment apparatus and/or packaging apparatus are described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,389,533; 3,499,259; 4,683,700; and 5,161,347, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference as if recited in full herein.
The double clipper concurrently applies two clips to the netting proximate the open (upstream) end of the package. One clip defines the first end portion of the next package and the other defines the trailing or second end portion of the package then being closed. A cutting mechanism incorporated in the clipper apparatus can sever the two packages before the enclosed package is removed from the clipper apparatus. U.S. Pat. No. 4,766,713 describes a double clipper apparatus used to apply two clips to a casing covering. U.S. Pat. No. 5,495,701 proposes a clipper with a clip attachment mechanism configured to selectively fasten a single clip or two clips simultaneously. The mechanism has two punches, one of which is driven directly by a pneumatic cylinder and the other of which is connected to the first punch using a pin and key assembly. The pin and key assembly allows the punches to be coupled or decoupled to the pneumatic cylinder drive to apply one single clip or two clips simultaneously. U.S. Pat. No. 5,586,424 proposes an apparatus for movement of U-shaped clips along a rail. The apparatus includes a clip feed for advancing clips on a guide rail and the arm is reciprocally driven by a piston and cylinder arrangement. The contents of each of these patents are hereby incorporated by reference as if recited in full herein.
Other devices provide for semi-automated or automated clipping as described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/339,910 and co-assigned, co-pending U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/508,659, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference as if recited in full herein. U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/339,910 describes a device with a chute that is configured to package a product, such as a vacuum-packed turkey, and can also form a handle in a tubular covering encasing the product.
Embodiments of the present invention provide apparatus, subassemblies and/or other devices, systems, methods and computer program products for packaging a product in a covering material and/or applying clips thereto.
In certain embodiments, the apparatus defines selectable build options and/or modules for use with more than one type of apparatus and/or sub-modules that can be selectively attached to different sides of a common mounting frame to provide increased build options without customizing each build to meet particular customer requests. The sub-modules can include: a clipper and a handle-maker that can be mounted to a common frame that is configured to accept the clipper and/or handle-maker on either a right or left hand side. The sub-module can also include different selectable discharge tray types and a printer assembly that may also be mounted to either a right or left side of the common frame.
The apparatus can be used to manipulate and package one or more products automatically and/or semi-automatically so that at least one clip is automatically applied to enclose the product in the covering material. Particular embodiments automatically package a discrete object or objects in netting.
Certain embodiments are directed to packaging apparatus modules that include: (a) a frame with a base adapted to reside on a support floor, the frame having opposing right and left hand frame sides and at least one lateral beam that extends therebetween, the right and left hand frame sides comprising respective upwardly extending frame portions which are configured to reside on opposing sides of a longitudinal product travel path having an axially extending centerline; and (b) a clipper mechanism configured to selectively attach to either one of the right and left hand frame sides in a manner that positions the clipper mechanism at a substantially common operative full-clip location in the product travel path when mounted to either the right or left hand frame sides to thereby allow build options with selectable mounting orientations.
The clipper mechanism can be configured to attach to a predetermined upper portion of the first and/or second frame side to be able to pivot in toward the axial centerline of the product travel path to the full clip position whether mounted on the first or right hand side of the frame.
Other embodiments are directed to modular packaging apparatus having multiple selectable sub-module build configurations. The apparatus include: (a) a clipping module and; (b) a selectable first or second front end module comprising a product chute with an axial centerline extending therethrough configured to reside upstream of a frame of the clipping module and engage the clipping module to align the product chute with a travel path extending through the clipping module to supply product through the product chute to the clipping module. The first selectable front end module includes a first gravity fed module and the second front end module including an automatic pusher module that pushes product through the product chute.
The clipping module includes: (a) a frame with a base adapted to reside on a support floor, the frame having opposing right and left hand frame sides, at least one lateral upper beam and at least one lateral lower beam that extend therebetween, the right and left hand frame sides comprising respective upwardly extending frame portions which are configured to reside on opposing sides of a longitudinal product travel path having an axially extending centerline; (b) a clipper mechanism selectively mountable to the frame at a predetermined location on either the right or left hand side of the frame; (c) an optional printer module with a printer support member that can mount to a predetermined location on the frame; (d) an optional handle maker with handle maker support member that can mount to a predetermined location on either the right or left hand side of the frame, the handle maker support member attaching to the frame on a side that is across from the clipping mechanism; (e) an optional voiding mechanism that mounts to the frame in cooperating communication with the clipper mechanism; (f) an interchangeable first and second discharge tray mountable to the frame downstream of the clipper mechanism; and (g) an actuation cylinder for translating the clipping mechanism through a predetermined travel stroke including a home to a full-clip position.
Still other embodiments are directed to methods of building packaging apparatus with modularized selectable configurations. The methods include: (a) providing a frame configured to accommodate right or left hand mounting at predetermined mounting locations for a plurality of predetermined selectable build modules including a handle-maker module and a clipper mechanism module; (b) selecting desired build modules to mount to the frame from a predetermined build list defining a plurality of selectable predetermined build modules including a handle maker module and a clipper mechanism module; (c) selecting a desired right or left hand mounting orientation for the clipper mechanism module; and (d) mounting the clipper mechanism module to the frame at the selected mounting orientation.
The predetermined list may also include selectable right and left hand housing guards that accommodate the selected build modules and respective selected mounting orientation, and the method further comprises selecting the appropriate right and left hand housing guards corresponding to the selected build modules and mounting orientations. The list may also include a selectable first front-end module that comprises at least one conveyor, a scale, and at least one axially extending product chute with a cavity; and a second front-end module that comprises an in-feed conveyor, a pusher mechanism, and at least one axially extending product chute with a cavity that is in communication with the pusher mechanism. The predetermined list may additional include a selectable first and second control interface with a computer program product that directs the automated or semi-automated operation of the first or second front end module and the clipper mechanism module.
Additional embodiments are directed to factory layouts of side-by-side packaging apparatus. The layouts include: a first packaging apparatus with a clipper module having a frame and a clipper mechanism attached to either a left side of the frame for applying at least one clip to gathered covering material; and a second packaging apparatus disposed side by side of the first packaging apparatus, the second packaging apparatus having a clipper module with a frame and a clipper mechanism attached to a right side of the frame for applying at least one clip to gathered covering material.
In some embodiments, the first and second clipper module frames have a substantially common size and configuration and/or configured to allow right or left hand mounting of the respective clipper mechanism and handle maker.
In particular embodiments, the first and second apparatus are spaced apart a distance to allow a common operator to attend to the discharge portion of each. In some embodiments, the first and second apparatus may be synchronized to output product in a timed manner that allows a single operator to attend to the discharge and/or input of each apparatus. The first and second apparatus may be configured to be in communication with each other. The first and second apparatus may additionally be configured with a computer program product for operating a clipper mechanism and handle maker. The computer program product includes a computer readable storage medium having computer readable program code embodied in the medium. The computer-readable program code includes computer readable program code that allows a set-up operator to select left hand or right hand clipping mechanism and/or handle maker operation.
The computer program product can also include computer readable program code that automatically controllably actuates an automated handle maker to generate a handle from netting and/or computer readable program code that allows a user to select left hand or right hand operation of either the clipping mechanism and/or the handle maker (where operational sequence or direction is different based on the mounting configuration).
In other embodiments the same program control sequence can be used to operate the right or left handed operation of either or both of the handle maker and/or clipping mechanism.
These and other objects and/or aspects of the present invention are explained in detail in the specification set forth below.
The present invention will now be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying figures, in which embodiments of the invention are shown. This invention may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein. Like numbers refer to like elements throughout. In the figures, certain layers, components or features may be exaggerated for clarity, and broken lines illustrate optional features or operations, unless specified otherwise. In addition, the sequence of operations (or steps) is not limited to the order presented in the claims unless specifically indicated otherwise. Where used, the terms “attached”, “connected”, “contacting”, “coupling” and the like, can mean either directly or indirectly, unless stated otherwise. The term “concurrently” means that the operations are carried out substantially simultaneously.
In the description of the present invention that follows, certain terms are employed to refer to the positional relationship of certain structures relative to other structures. As used herein, the terms “front,” “forward” and derivatives thereof refer to the general or primary direction that a target product travels for enclosure and/or clipping; this term is intended to be synonymous with the term “downstream,” which is often used in manufacturing or material flow environments to indicate that certain material traveling or being acted upon is farther along in that process than other material. Conversely, the terms “rearward,” “upstream” and derivatives thereof refer to the directions opposite, respectively, the forward and downstream directions.
Unless otherwise defined, all terms (including technical and scientific terms) used herein have the same meaning as commonly understood by one of ordinary skill in the art to which this invention belongs. It will be further understood that terms, such as those defined in commonly used dictionaries, should be interpreted as having a meaning that is consistent with their meaning in the context of the relevant art and this application and should not be interpreted in an idealized or overly formal sense unless expressly so defined herein. It is noted that the features described with respect to one embodiment can apply to another embodiment.
The term “frame” means a generally skeletal structure used to support one or more assemblies, modules and/or components. The term “modular” means that an assembly and/or subassembly is designed with standardized dimensions, mounting features and/or configurations for interchangeable use with replacement modules of the same or similar type and/or other selected different modules. The frame and selected modules may also be configured for selectable mounting on a right or left hand side of a common frame. With respect to the right or left hand side of the mounting frame, the terms refer to the sides of the frame when looking upstream from a discharge end location of a clipper module. It is also noted that different mounting orientation configurations of the modules and/or apparatus may be shown in the figures. Thus, certain figure views may show certain of the devices in different views with different mounting configurations and the views in different figures do not necessarily correspond to a common or single mounting arrangement as different views may have certain components and/or devices oriented differently.
The present invention is particularly suitable for applying closure clips to discrete objects held in a covering material. The covering material may be natural or synthetic and may be a casing material that can be sealed about a product. In certain embodiments the covering material comprises netting. The casing can be any suitable casing (edible or inedible, natural or synthetic) such as, but not limited to, collagen, cellulose, plastic, elastomeric or polymeric casing. In certain embodiments, the casing comprises netting. The term “netting” refers to any open mesh material formed in any form including, for example, knotted, braided, extruded, stamped, knitted, woven or otherwise. Typically, the netting is configured so as to be stretchable in both axial and lateral directions.
Netting or other covering material may be used to package discrete meat products such as loaves of meat, boned ham, spiral sliced ham, deboned ham, turkey, turkey loaves held in molds, or other meat or items directly or with the items held in subcontainers and/or wraps such as molds, trays, boxes, bags, absorbent or protective sheets, sealant, cans and the like. Other embodiments of the present invention may be directed to package other types of food such as cheese, bread, fruit, vegetables, and the like, as well as non-food items. Examples of non-food items that may be packaged using embodiments of the present invention include living items such as flora, trees, and the like, as well as inanimate objects. Additional examples of products include discrete, semi-solid or solid objects such as firewood, pet food (typically held in a container if the wet type), recreational objects (such as balls), or other solid or semi-solid objects. The product may be packaged for any suitable industry including horticulture, aquaculture, agriculture, or other food industry, environmental, chemical, explosive, or other application. Netting may be particularly useful to package ham or turkeys, manufactured hardware such as automotive parts, firewood, explosives, molded products, and other industrial, consumable, and/or commodity item(s).
Generally stated, embodiments of the present invention are directed at packaging piece goods or discrete items by wrapping or enveloping the goods in a covering material, such as netting, as it (they) exit a product chute, then automatically or semi-automatically clipping the covering material with a closure clip or other attachment or closure means to close the covering and hold the object or objects inside of the covering material. As noted above, clippers are available from Tipper Tie, Inc., of Apex, N.C. Examples of suitable clips include metallic generally “U”-shaped clips available from Tipper Tie, Inc., in Apex, N.C. Other clips, clip materials and clip configurations or closure means may also be used.
In certain particular embodiments, the apparatus 10 can be used to package bone-in ham products while the apparatus 100 can be used to package sealed whole poultry products (“whole” meaning generally intact but typically missing the head/neck and/or internal organs).
As shown in
In the embodiments shown in
The clipper module 40 m can be a standalone device or be configured to engage a product chute 30 in an upstream portion of an apparatus, such as apparatus 10, 100, to provide increased build options and/or modularity. The portion of the apparatus 10, 100 upstream of the clipper module 40 m can also be modularized and/or provide selectable build options for a front-end module to meet customer applications while reducing the need for customer-specific customized equipment.
When the handle maker 60 is not assembled, a generally planar upstanding housing sidewall can be used to close the module 40 m. The handle maker 60 and frame 40 f can also be configured to allow the handle maker 60 to mount to either the left or right hand side 40L, 40R, respectively, of the frame 40 f (and primary product travel path) with their respective housing guards 11 (
Typically, the handle maker 60 (where used) will mount to a different opposing side of the frame 40 f from the clipper 40. An example of a suitable handle-maker is described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,729,102, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference as if recited in full herein. The handle maker 60 is configured to automatically form a handle on (typically from) the covering material as the product exits the chute 30.
The frame 40 f can have pre-formed apertures, brackets, alignment indicia and/or other structures or members that can allow the clipper 40 and/or handle maker 60 to mount to the desired side of the frame 40 f without requiring specialized individual frame modifications or brackets for a particular customer. For example, the clipper mechanism 40 can be an assembly with a mounting bracket configuration that can be interchangeably mounted to either side of the frame 40 f and still clip at a substantially common location in the product path. The handle maker 60 with the bracket 160 (
The clipper 40 will typically mount to a top portion of the frame 40 f in a manner that allows the clipper 40 to dynamically retract and advance into clipping position as discussed above. For example, as shown in
As shown in
As shown in
The arrows in
Additional description of examples of the different apparatus can be found in co-pending, co-assigned U.S. applications identified by, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference as if recited in full herein.
In operation, the product pusher assembly 20 linearly retracts and advances to push a product through the product chute 30 so that the product is positioned proximate the clipper 40, then retracts to a resting state upstream of the product transfer zone 65. As described above, a sleeve of covering material (designated at feature 130 in
In operation, the sleeve of covering material may be clipped, welded, fused, knotted or otherwise closed and sealed at a leading edge portion thereof. When the product exits the product chute 30, it is held in the covering material as the covering material is drawn downstream. The covering material may be loaded onto the product chute 30 and the leading edge portion thereof closed before or after the product chute 30 is mounted to the apparatus 10, 100.
The product pusher assembly 20 has a pusher head 20 h that is adapted to contact the product. The pusher head 20 h may be configured to substantially fill the entire cross-sectional width of the product chute cavity 30 c as the pusher head 20 h approaches and/or exits the discharge portion of the product chute 30 d. The clipper 40 is configured to reside in a retracted position out of the product travel region to allow the enclosed product to pass unimpeded until the product rests against a product-holding member (which typically moves between active and inactive positions about the product travel path).
As shown, in
In some embodiments, the clipper mechanism 40 can operate with an automatic stroke cycle that comprises three dwell positions: a first retracted home position; a second pre-clip position; and a third clipping (“full-clip”) position. As noted above with respect to
The clipper mechanism 40 can include an integrated double two-stroke actuation cylinder 140 as shown in
As shown in
As shown, the control housing 155 (
It is noted that in lieu of and/or with the conveyor 50 of apparatus 10 or floors 121 and/or 122 of apparatus 100, other floor configurations, typically moving floors or product advancement systems may be used, for example, rollers, rolling bars, belts or drives that advance trays or other support members and the like). In addition, the moving floor may be angularly oriented to travel up, down, or otherwise to advance the product. In addition, the apparatus 10, 100 can include an automated continuous advancement system with discrete product(s) separated at desired intervals on the moving floor to serially introduce product for packaging to the chute 30. In certain embodiments, the moving floor can include partitions, channels, or other spacer configurations to hold the product(s) in desired alignment on the moving floor so that, when the proximity sensor indicates the product is present, the partition or channel provides the desired product stop.
For groups of objects, manual or automated bins or feeders can accumulate the desired amount of grouped objects upstream and place them together on the moving floor (not shown). In other embodiments, an automated counter can be used to count the number of products that pass a target location so that a desired number of products are accumulated (not shown). The conveyor 50 (
The apparatus 10, 100 may include a sensor positioned proximate the receiving end of the product chute 30. The sensor can be configured to confirm that the product chute 30 is in operative position. An exemplary sensor is a two-part magnetic switch 31 as shown in
A controller/processor (such as a Programmable Logic Controller) may be configured to monitor a signal from this sensor 31 and deactivate the product pusher assembly 20 (release cylinder pressure) automatically whenever a product chute 30 position-error is noted at any time during the process. The signal can be automatically monitored through a Safety Circuit Module. If the product chute 30 is missing or out of position, the apparatus 10, 100 can be held in a low energy state that removes power to air supplies and controls to inhibit machine operation. To reinitiate the procedure, an operator may press a restart or reset button. In certain embodiments, the clipper 40 may be operated on override even when the chute 30 is absent. Once the product chute 30 is in location and the stop is reset, power air can be applied to the machine control valves and electric power can be applied to the control (PLC) outputs. After the PLC determines the positions of the moveable components, such as the product pusher assembly 20, the clipper 40, the product holding member and the like, an automatic reset can be performed and those components automatically moved to a respective home position as needed.
The HMI 55 can include an input display screen, an emergency stop button, a reset button and a clipper only activation button. The HMI can also include a pressure regulator for corresponding gages. The pressure regulators can be for the retractable product holding member on a discharge tray (which may be described as a product clamp bar), and/or one for a retractable brake system 90 (
The apparatus 10, 100 may be configured to allow the clipper 40 to operate irrespective of the upstream devices using the “clipper only” push button instead of the apparatus-start push button. Alternatively, the modules 40 m, 40 m′ can be stand-alone devices that operate the clipper 40. The HMI 55 and/or modules 40 m, 40 m′ can also include an emergency stop 56 (
In some embodiments, the product pusher mechanism 20 is configured to limit the travel of the pusher head 20 h so that at least a portion of the pusher head 20 h remains inside the product chute 30 at a furthermost operative extension position (extended position) of the product pusher mechanism 20. In other embodiments, the forward portion of the pusher head 20 h passes out of the chute 30 downstream of the gathering plates while in others, the pusher head 20 h stops short of the most downstream gathering plate (the gathering plates will be discussed further below). In operation, the pusher head 20 h is configured to push the product from the discharge end of the chute 20 d so that the covering material extends a sufficient distance therefrom to allow an automated clipping operation to be carried out.
The product chute floor may comprise a stationary floor with an anti-stick coating or material. It is also noted that the product chute 30 may include a moving floor such as those types described above with respect to the infeed floor configurations. The chute 30 may be sized relative to the product 180 so that the product 180 extends across a major portion of the width of the cavity, and in certain embodiments, extends across at least about 75% of the width of the cavity. In certain embodiments, the product 180 and chute cavity 30 c are sized so that the sides and/or top and bottom of the product 180 are pressed against the sidewalls of the cavity as the product is pushed therethrough. The product chute 30 may comprise stainless steel and be coated with a friction reducing material such as TEFLON. Lubricants may also be disposed on the inner surface(s) of the product chute 30.
In certain embodiments, the product chute 30 has a cross-sectional profile that is non-circular. The product chute 30 may be configured with a planar top and/or bottom portion and semi-circular side portions. Other cross-sectional profile configurations may also be used including, but not limited to, circular, oval, triangular, rectangular, square and the like.
The front-end portion of the apparatus 100 shown in
The front-end frame 10 f, 100 f can be configured to accommodate different sizes of interchangeable chutes 30 and/or different widths of conveyors 50, 122, respectively. For example, the apparatus 10, 100 can operate with larger and smaller chutes 30, which can be placed on the frame 10 f at the OEM site and/or at a use site, depending on a particular product/use. The chute widths may range from between about 9-13 inches and the height of the chutes 30 may be between about 5-12 inches. A smaller chute 30 may have a cavity that is about 9 inches wide by 5.75 inches tall while a larger chute 30 may have a cavity that is about 13 inches wide by about 11.25 inches tall. The chutes 30 may have a length (at least for the portion having a generally constant cross-sectional area) that is between about 28-30 inches. The chutes 30 may also have a flared or funnel-like entry portion 30 f (
In certain embodiments, the front-end module 10 m, 100 m can be configured with control program code that includes OEM selectable pre-programmed run modes and options to direct what signals are monitored, the timing, powering and/or other control parameters or input/output of certain automated features. The run modes may be independent of or dependent on the RH or LH mounting of the clipper and/or handle maker. The program run mode will typically be different where the handle-maker is not employed and for each front-end module type employed as certain operational sequences will be different (different actuators, sensor monitoring, and the like). The program run mode may also vary depending on other build modules employed (or not employed). For example, the type of discharge table and/or the type of product clamp employed and whether a printer module is used to print labels.
A computer module can be configured with a query list of build options. The answers can be used to automatically build the desired run routine from a preprogrammed set of operations for a particular modules 40 m, 40 m′ and/or apparatus 10, 100. In certain embodiments, the answers are used to turn on or off the appropriate computer run modules or sub-routines to facilitate a faster and/or more repeatable program build or compilation for each assembly based on its selected modular build units. The queries may be automatically answered by interrogating an electronic part list or assembly numbers to generate the desired operational program for a particular build based on modules included in that part list or may be answered via an operator or combinations of same.
As shown in
In other embodiments, a plurality of chutes 30 can be mounted on a sliding or movable track that can serially move a selected chute out of and/or into the operative position (not shown). The plurality of chutes 30 may be positioned side to side or above and below each other (vertically stacked), mounted on a carousel, or the like so as to automatically move into and out of position. In operation, an operator or an autoloader can place a sleeve of covering material on one or more chutes 30, select the order of presentation (based on the type of product being dispensed and/or the type of covering material desired), and proceed to move the chutes serially into operative position so as to be aligned with the product pusher assembly 20 and the clipper 40. In this manner, the apparatus 10 and/or 100 can be preloaded or reloaded with covering material limiting any downtime associated therewith.
In any event, the modules 40 m, 40 m′ can be configured to align with the chute 30 such that the discharge end portion of the product chute 30 d terminates proximate the clipper 40 with minimal adjustment. The modules 40 m, 40 m′ are configured to hold the clipper 40 so that the clip window can be axially aligned with a desired axial location of the product travel path in the full clip position, typically substantially aligned with the axial centerline of the chute 30, irrespective of whether the clipper 40 is mounted to the right or left hand side of the frame 40 f.
As described above, the apparatus 10 can include a brake assembly with brake gripping members 90 (
In some embodiments, the modules 40 m, 40 m′ include a product-holding member (i.e., a product clamp) that can automatically be moved into position by actuating a clamp drive cylinder, thereby blocking or trapping the product to inhibit same from moving further downstream. One example is shown in
The actuation of the holding member can be controlled by the PLC using proximity sensors and operation feedback as will be understood by one of skill in the art. The discharge table 66 may be stationary (with or without rollers as shown). In other embodiments, the product table 66 may include a traveling floor (such as a conveyor) that advances the packaged product to another processing or subsequent workstation (not shown).
As is well known to those of skill in the art, in operation, the clipper 40 defines a closure/clip delivery path using a clip rail 41 in communication with the clip window 140 w in a clip channel for receipt of a U-shaped metal clip. The clip is advanced in the closure path or channel by means of a punch so that the clip will engage a die positioned in a manner permitting the clip to be formed about gathered material that encases the product in the material at a closure zone in the product travel path. Although not illustrated, pressurized air or other means of pressing or moving the clip to close about the tubular package may also be used. As shown, the guide rail 41 can have a curvilinear configuration with a vertical run which is curved at its lower end so that it gradually merges into a horizontal run to direct clips mounted thereon into the window 140 w. The clips are typically arranged in a stack with adjacent clips abutting each other so that the legs of each clip fit around the guide rail with a crown of each clip fitting over the guide rail. The multiple clips may be connected to one another by means of a thin elastomeric film, tape or adhesive (typically along the crown) so that the clips together may slide down the guide rail and around the bend therein between the vertical and horizontal runs of the guide rail. Typically, clips are provided in a coil or on a reel for feeding onto the guide rail. Although illustrated herein as a generally vertical and downwardly directed clip feed, other feed orientations may also be employed.
As shown in
The cutting guide 166 can have opposing upper and lower portions, respectively, with an intermediate window portion extending intermediate thereof. The window portion can be axially aligned with the gathering plate window 142 w. The cutting guide channel 166 c can extend both in the upper and lower portions of the guide 166. In operation, the cutting member 165 slides upwardly in the lower channel 166 c, extends across the window and into the channel in the upper portion of the cutting guide 165. The cutting guide channel 166 c can be formed into a unitary body. Alternatively, the cutting guide 166 can comprise two members with generally planar downwardly extending sidewalls that are spaced apart a distance sufficient to receive and allow the cutting member 165 to slide while retained in a desired alignment. The two spaced apart members may be plates and/or the channel 166 c may be generally planar. The cutting member 165 can be configured to remain in the lower body channel 1661 during periods of non-use
One long edge portion 165 of the cutting member 165 can be retained in the cutting guide channel 166 c as the cutting member 166 travels across the guide window into the extended cutting, shearing and/or severing position. Where used, this positive retention of the cutting member 165 may provide additional alignment stability in some applications. The cutting member 165 may be a generally planar blade with a leading angled knife-edge portion. Other cutting configurations can be used including, but not limited to, heat (of whatever type), water, pressure, and other knife and/or blade shapes, as well as combinations thereof. Accordingly, the term “cutting” as used herein is used broadly to mean separating and/or severing adjacent portions of covering material and is not limited to physically cutting with a sharp implement.
In addition, it is noted that the present invention is not limited to a bottom up cutting operation as top-down cutting mechanisms can be used such as, for example, hot-knife devices are described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,683,700 and 5,161,347, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference as if recited in full herein.
The clipper 40 can include a plurality of spaced apart gathering plates 141, 142 that are configured to automatically gather a portion of the tubular or sleeve of covering material (held in tension) to form the material into a rope-like and/or compressed configuration in preparation for receiving the clip(s) thereabout. The gathering plates 141-142 are configured to gather or compress the covering material that extends between the clipper 40 and the product chute discharge end portion 30 d. Pairs of cooperating plates can be positioned across the product travel path to retractably travel toward each other, substantially orthogonal to the direction of product travel, to gather the covering material therebetween. See co-pending, co-assigned U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/508,609 for additional description, the contents of which have been incorporated by reference hereinabove. As shown, the gathering plates 141, 142 may be mounted to the clipper 40 and can be described as clipper gathering plates or die supports.
In operation, once the covering material is gathered, a clip or clips can be applied to secure the encased product in the covering material. The covering material can then be severed to release the encased product in the clipped package. In certain embodiments, two clips are applied substantially concurrently proximate to each other using a dual clipper so that one clip closes the trailing edge of the covering material forming a first encased package and the other closes a leading edge of the covering material forming the next encased package. The clipped configuration of the covering material encasing the product may be configured to substantially conform to the shape of the enclosed product(s) or may be more loosely configured.
In certain embodiments, after the product moves past (and may be stopped by) the product-holding member 67 f 1, 67 f 2 (
In some embodiments, the gathering plates 141, 142, guide 166 and cutting member 165 are mounted to the clipper 40 (i.e., clipper gathering plates) to move in concert therewith. As the clipper 40 is rotated into position, the clipper gathering plates 141, 142 automatically start the gathering operation. In certain embodiments, the modules 40 m, 40 m′ can include additional gathering plates that are positioned on the opposing side of the travel path and which may be configured to laterally linearly translate into and out of operative position. In certain embodiments, each gathering plate can be mounted so that in operative position they are horizontally and vertically aligned with the corresponding centerlines of the product chute cavity 30 c.
The operation and sequence of certain events can be controlled by a programmable logic controller and/or other controller. Certain operations may be selected by an operator input using a HMI to communicate with the controller as is well known to those of skill in the art.
The module pairs 40 m and/or 40 m′ can be relatively closely spaced. In some embodiments, the two modules 40 m (40 m′) are spaced apart a distance sufficient to allow a single operator to attend to the operation of certain functions on both modules 40 m (40 m′), and/or 10 m and/or 100 m. Thus, the operator workstation can be positioned intermediate the two modules 40 m (40 m′).
The two modules 40 m (40 m′) can be longitudinally offset or generally aligned to have a generally parallel longitudinally common footprint. Pairs of the same apparatus 10 and/or 100, or different apparatus such as 10, 100, stand-alone modules 40 m (40 m′), or combinations of same, can be arranged in a production facility or factory in this paired manner. In addition, the apparatus 100 shown in
The predetermined list can include selectable right and left hand housing guards that accommodate the selected build modules and respective selected mounting orientation, and the method further comprises selecting the appropriate right and left hand housing guards corresponding to the selected build modules and mounting orientations (block 216). The predetermined build list can also include: a first front-end module that comprises at least one conveyor, a scale, and at least one axially extending product chute with a cavity; and a second front-end module that comprises an in-feed conveyor, a pusher mechanism, and at least one axially extending product chute with a cavity that is in communication with the pusher mechanism (block 218).
The predetermined build list may include selectable RH and LH housing guards that accommodate the selected build options (modules and orientation) and a manufacturer can select the appropriate housing guards corresponding to the selected builds. For example, where a handle maker 60 is not used, the RH and LH housing guards are generally planar continuous sidewalls that enclose the clipper mechanism, and voider mechanism in the module 40 m′. However, where a handle maker 60 is used, the housing guard 11 g can include a handle maker window that allows the front end of the device to be in communication with the product flow path.
As shown in
The data 456 may include a look-up chart of different module part lists, configurations, run sequences, target products, covering material type, proximity sensor feedback, safety interlock circuits and the like 451 corresponding to particular or target products for one or more producers or module build types.
As will be appreciated by those of skill in the art, the operating system 452 may be any operating system suitable for use with a data processing system, such as OS/2, AIX, DOS, OS/390 or System390 from International Business Machines Corporation, Armonk, N.Y., Windows CE, Windows NT, Windows95, Windows98 or Windows2000 from Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, Wash., Unik or Linux or FreeBSD, Palm OS from Palm, Inc., Mac OS from Apple Computer, LabView, or proprietary operating systems. The I/O device drivers 458 typically include software routines accessed through the operating system 452 by the application programs 454 to communicate with devices such as I/O data port(s), data storage 456 and certain memory 414 components. The application programs 454 are illustrative of the programs that implement the various features of the data processing system and can include at least one application, which supports operations according to embodiments of the present invention. Finally, the data 456 represents the static and dynamic data used by the application programs 454, the operating system 452, the I/O device drivers 458, and other software programs that may reside in the memory 414.
While the present invention is illustrated, for example, with reference to the Module 450 being an application program in
The I/O data port can be used to transfer information between the data processing system, the product pusher, and the clipper mechanism or another computer system or a network (e.g., the Internet) or to other devices controlled by the processor. These components may be conventional components such as those used in many conventional data processing systems which may be configured in accordance with the present invention to operate as described herein.
For example, certain embodiments of the present invention are directed to a computer program product for operating an automated clipped (netting) packaging apparatus so that the clipper mechanism operates from either a left or right hand side. The computer program product can include computer readable program code that allows a user to select left hand or right hand clipping mechanism operation, which may be programmed or selected at the OEM site. That is, the controller may have a plurality of selectable program sequences, one for operating left hand operation and one for right hand operation (for either or both the handle-maker and/or clipper) and/or for operating an apparatus with a handle maker and/or printer or without. During assembly and/or test, an OEM site can lock in the proper operational sequence. In other embodiments, the program run mode can be indifferent to which mounting orientation is used and, as such, a common program can be used to operate the apparatus irrespective of which mounting orientation is employed.
The automated/semi-automated packaging apparatus can include an automated product pusher mechanism that advances and retracts from a product chute and an automated clipping apparatus that applies at least one closure clip to netting thereat. The computer program product can include: (a) computer readable program code that automatically controllably actuates a pusher actuation cylinder to push a product pusher in a downstream direction; and (b) computer readable program code that automatically controllably actuates a clipper mechanism to position a clipping apparatus in a clipping position in response to product pushed by the product pusher out of the product chute and covered in netting.
In particular embodiments, the computer program product can also include one or more of: (a) computer readable program code that automatically controllably actuates netting gathering plate actuation cylinders to laterally translate the plates toward the clipper mechanism; (b) computer readable program code that automatically controllably actuates a package holding member to maintain a product held in netting in alignment with the clipper mechanism; (c) computer readable program code that monitors a proximity sensor positioned to detect when a product is in position to be packaged and automatically controllably actuates the pusher cylinder in response thereto; (d) computer readable program code that prevents actuation of the pusher cylinder when the product chute is not in proper position; (e) computer readable program code that actuates a cutting tool actuation cylinder to controllably advance the cutting tool and automatically sever netting intermediate two clips thereon; (f) computer readable program code that supplies heat to the cutting tool; (g) computer readable program code that automatically actuates clip pushers in the clipper mechanism when netting is gathered and in position for clipping at the clipping window; (h) computer readable program code that controls the actuation of a braking mechanism to advance the braking mechanism to contact the product chute and selectively apply pressure to netting thereat; (i) computer readable program code that automatically controllably actuates the pusher actuation cylinder to pull a product pusher in an upstream direction out of the product chute; and (j) computer readable program code that automatically controllably actuates the clipper mechanism to remove the clipping apparatus from the clipping position.
While the present invention is illustrated, for example, with reference to particular divisions of programs, functions and memories, the present invention should not be construed as limited to such logical divisions. Thus, the present invention should not be construed as limited to the configuration of
The flowcharts and block diagrams of certain of the figures herein illustrate the architecture, functionality, and operation of possible implementations of the present invention. In this regard, each block in the flow charts or block diagrams represents a module, segment, or portion of code, which comprises one or more executable instructions for implementing the specified logical function(s). It should also be noted that in some alternative implementations, the functions noted in the blocks may occur out of the order noted in the figures. For example, two blocks shown in succession may in fact be executed substantially concurrently or the blocks may sometimes be executed in the reverse order, depending upon the functionality involved.
The foregoing is illustrative of the present invention and is not to be construed as limiting thereof. Although a few exemplary embodiments of this invention have been described, those skilled in the art will readily appreciate that many modifications are possible in the exemplary embodiments without materially departing from the novel teachings and advantages of this invention. Accordingly, all such modifications are intended to be included within the scope of this invention as defined in the claims. In the claims, means-plus-function clauses, where used, are intended to cover the structures described herein as performing the recited function and not only structural equivalents but also equivalent structures. Therefore, it is to be understood that the foregoing is illustrative of the present invention and is not to be construed as limited to the specific embodiments disclosed, and that modifications to the disclosed embodiments, as well as other embodiments, are intended to be included within the scope of the appended claims. The invention is defined by the following claims, with equivalents of the claims to be included therein.
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|International Classification||B65B51/04, B65B59/04, B65B61/26, B65B47/00, B65B61/14, B65B61/00|
|Cooperative Classification||B65B9/15, B65B25/064, Y10T29/49826, B65B59/04, A22C11/125, B65B51/04|
|European Classification||B65B59/04, B65B51/04, B65B9/15|
|Aug 9, 2005||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: DELAWARE CAPITAL FORMATION, INC., DELAWARE
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:GRIGGS, SAMUEL D.;MAY, DENNIS J.;WINCE, DAVID T.;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:016623/0979
Effective date: 20050520
|Apr 18, 2006||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: CLOVE PARK INSURANCE COMPANY, NEW YORK
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:DELAWARE CAPITAL FORMATION, INC.;REEL/FRAME:017766/0580
Effective date: 20051231
Owner name: CP FORMATION LLC, NEW YORK
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:CLOVE PARK INSURANCE COMPANY;REEL/FRAME:017776/0052
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Owner name: TIPPER TIE, INC., NORTH CAROLINA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:CP FORMATION LLC;REEL/FRAME:017766/0652
Effective date: 20060102
|Jul 19, 2006||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: CLOVE PARK INSURANCE COMPANY, NEW YORK
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:DELAWARE CAPITAL FORMATION, INC.;REEL/FRAME:017957/0129
Effective date: 20051231
Owner name: CP FORMATION LLC, NEW YORK
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:CLOVE PARK INSURANCE COMPANY;REEL/FRAME:017957/0162
Effective date: 20051231
Owner name: TIPPER TIE, INC., NORTH CAROLINA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:CP FORMATION LLC;REEL/FRAME:017957/0188
Effective date: 20060102
|Nov 29, 2011||CC||Certificate of correction|
|Dec 29, 2014||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4